Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Florida Law Permitting Defense Attorneys to Speak with Physicians Who Have Treated Medical Malpractice Victims

In a win for Florida medical malpractice victims, as well as for Floridians’ privacy more generally, the Florida Supreme Court on November 8th struck down a controversial portion of a state law that permitted defense attorneys in medical malpractice cases to speak with the victim’s treating physicians.  This will enable victims of medical malpractice in Florida to rest easy knowing that personal or private medical or other information or details unrelated to their medical malpractice lawsuit may be discussed outside of the patient’s or their attorneys’ presence. This will ensure that medical malpractice cases stay focused on whether the defendant physician or healthcare provider committed medical malpractice or not, instead of issues that a defense attorney learns about that hurt a plaintiff’s case simply because of a law the Florida Supreme Court rightly found violates medical malpractice victims’ privacy rights.

 

The Law Permitting Defense Attorneys to Interview Treating Physicians

 

The law in question, which was passed by the Florida Legislature in 2013, allowed a doctor or hospital being sued by a patient to conduct “ex parte,” or one on one, interviews of the patient’s treating physicians without the patient or his or her attorney being present in the presuit portion of a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Thus, neither the injured patient nor his attorney(s) would be able to monitor what went on during such interviews or ensure the defense attorney only asked questions relevant to the medical malpractice.  Instead, the defense attorney could use the interviews as a fishing expedition to find out compromising details about the patient unrelated to his or her medical history or the alleged malpractice-all without any way for the patient or his attorney(s) to ensure that there were some bounds to these conversations.

 

The Justices’ Decision

 

In a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court wrote that “even the possibility that a person’s extremely sensitive private medical information will be exposed is the type of governmental intrusion that the Florida Constitution protects against because it is impossible to know if an inadvertent disclosure occurred when the meetings are not only ex parte and without a judge, but also secret [and] without a record.”   The Florida Supreme Court further noted that “in the case of protected medical information, the danger is uniquely and unconstitutionally great because once the bell has been rung, it cannot be unrung.”  The decision stemmed from a case from Escambia County in the Panhandle, in which the widow of a patient who was planning to sue a physician for medical malpractice in connection with her husband’s death, challenged the law out of concern that her deceased husband’s privacy rights would be violated if defense attorneys were to meet with her deceased husband’s doctors.

 

Contact Lytal Reiter if You Have Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice in Florida

 

The Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath have experience successfully litigating these types of medical malpractice cases. If you believe you have been the victim of a surgical error, contact a Florida medical malpractice attorney from our firm. We are here to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call today at 561-655-1990 or toll free at 1-800-654-2024 for a free consultation regarding your situation.